Joseph Rucker Lamar
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
December 17, 1910 – January 2, 1916
|Nominated by||William Taft|
|Preceded by||William Moody|
|Succeeded by||Louis Brandeis|
|Born||Joseph Rucker Lamar
October 15, 1857
Ruckersville, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||January 2, 1916
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Georgia
Bethany College, West Virginia
Washington and Lee University
|Religion||Disciples of Christ|
Joseph Rucker Lamar (October 15, 1857 – January 2, 1916) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court appointed by President William Howard Taft. A cousin of former associate justice Lucius Lamar, he served from 1911 until his death in 1916.
Born in Ruckersville, Elbert County, Georgia, Lamar was the son of a minister and attended the Academy of Richmond County in Augusta, Georgia and the Martin Institute in Jefferson, Georgia. During his time in Augusta, he lived next door to and was the "closest friend"  of future president Woodrow Wilson, whose father was the local Presbyterian minister. They both also attended Joseph T. Derry's school for boys in a local warehouse, a school whose other students would also become a future Congressman, major newspaper owner/ambassador and the dean of Columbia Law School. After Lamar graduated from the Penn Lucy School near Baltimore, Maryland, he attended the University of Georgia where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society before graduating from Bethany College in 1877, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi. He then completed law school at Washington and Lee University School of Law the following year and began practicing law in Augusta, GA.
From 1886 to 1889, he served in the Georgia House of Representatives, and then was appointed by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1893 as a member of the Commission to Recodify the Laws of Georgia, which prepared a code of laws for the state. Two years later, that code was adopted by the state General Assembly.
On January 1, 1901, Lamar was appointed to fill an unexpired term in the Supreme Court of Georgia, then was re-elected in 1903. He wrote more than 200 opinions before resigning in 1905 to again practice law, defending railroads and many other large corporations.
On December 12, 1910, Lamar was nominated by President William Howard Taft to a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by William H. Moody. Lamar was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 15, 1910, and received commission on December 17, 1910. At the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court, Lamar was only one of three justices ever nominated by a President of the opposite party. That stellar reputation was one reason Lamar, together with Frederick W. Lehmann, was selected in 1914 to represent the United States at the ABC Powers Conference convened to avert a war over the Veracruz Incident.
At a reception after Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in 1913, the two friends from youth were able to meet again and swapped stories of their Georgia youth. They remained in contact while they were in Washington. In 1915, Lamar wrote two short individual opinions in the famed Leo Frank case. He declined to grant a petition for habeas corpus brought by Frank to challenge the fairness of his trial, but subsequently granted a writ of error allowing Frank to bring his claims before the court. The full Court went on to reject Frank's claim in Frank v. Mangum; Lamar voted with the majority but did not write a separate opinion.
That work, coupled with his court duties, may have led to Lamar's failing health during the fall of 1915. Legislation was proposed to allow Lamar to retire with full pay, but his death just months later made the issue a moot point.
He died on January 2, 1916.
Lamar's professional papers, including correspondence concerning his years as a Justice, are archived at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, and available for research. The Joseph Rucker Lamar Boyhood Home in Augusta, Georgia is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Joseph Rucker Lamar at Find a Grave
- Augusta, Georgia, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States